Forwarded as Received: Are You Absolved of Your Responsibility?
Many of us have come across this phrase “Forwarded as Received” on messages in the various social media we are in, be it Facebook, WhatsApp, Hike,WeChat or Telegram. Do you think as educated citizens of this country, Can we Absolve Our Responsibility in sending these messages further, by just prefixing: “Forwarded as Received”?
Early Days. Let us examine, these “forwards”. Having started emailing before Y2K, and being present in the Smart phone social media since the past 5 years, I have come across some trends in this phenomenon. During the days of Email forwards, it was mostly Jokes, Inspirational Stuff or the typical “Send this to 10 persons in the next 1 minute to receive a blessing or avoid a curse”. To be honest while I really enjoyed the Jokes and got inspired by the motivational stuff, I have never forwarded the chain mails. Yet, I never received any curses, and I also know that blessings have NOT been received by those who sent it to me. These were merely experiments done by some marketing companies to understand how far these messages reach on electronic media .
Current Trends. In India, the trends from 2010 to 2013, was mostly, either facts to show India as a great nation, or some anti-govt propaganda or fake pictures. In the run up to the elections and post elections in 2014, I found a spike in the number of forwards that has hate content targeting religions/communities sometimes even vicious propaganda to gain electoral advantages. Some messages sound very true, but have been purportedly manufactured by vested interests including the ISI to target and weaken the resolve in the society or the Armed forces in particular. One such example of effect of social media rumors was the Exodus of North East people from Bangalore in Aug 2012. No wonder the Govt now bans the internet the moment some crisis takes place, like it did in Gujarat during the Patel agitation recently or in J&K whenever there is tension building up.
Design of Forwards. The language of these forwards are designed such, that it mixes up known facts and fiction. It gives authority of some reputed person/ newspaper or Govt sources (which are generally red herrings). Many a times, the content alarms us and propels us to act or do our bit for the country, to raise awareness among our friends but in actuality we are merely being used as pawns to spread the agenda of the originator. You can make out these messages, from the last part which generally ends with “If you are a True Indian…spread this to…..”
The Reach. According to Global Web Index survey of August 2015, we have 134 million active social media users in India which is about 10% of the population. We can guess they are the active, productive, educated population who matter to this country. If this population can be weakened, our nation can become weak. This population includes majority of decision makers or opinion makers in the Govt and other areas. This is the population which can swing the wave in favor or against the country.
What should be Our Response when we receive such forwards? I am not talking here of the Jokes or some simple harmless forwards. We have many options- The First one is to Ignore it. But majority of us do not ignore it, instead we forward it to our groups we are part of. The better action would be to question the source or authority from the sender of the forward. This discourages the sender. The best alternative, which I do is to Search for the Truth on Google and invariably you will find multiple sources. Do not confine to one source, website or blog. They are equally false and dangerous. Always try and get to the source and the Truth as far as possible. One of the best way to find a hoax is to check in http://www.snopes.com/ or http://www.hoax-slayer.com/. This method is effective and you can send the Truth back to the originator. Slowly this puts an end to the menace of falsity that is spread in the social media. It also is a great way to enhance one’s knowledge during the search. It also keeps your groups you are part of, Clean and SPAM free.
I encourage you to do your bit to our Nation, its safety, its security by NOT forwarding messages without checking the veracity of the facts. Remember, All the Googles is not Gold and Check before You Post – Two proverbs, I modified to suit the modern times.
I am sure you will be a Social Media Warrior for the betterment of this country. Won’t you?